Arizona district to keep schools closed Monday

As we approach the teacher walkout on Thursday morning ABC15's Jason Volentine breaks down what's at stake as the Red For Ed movement continues

Republican legislative leaders and Ducey say they won't bend to teacher demands for more than raises.

"Teachers deserve a raise but also to get funding for the schools to meet their basic needs", Barton said.

Teachers in Arizona and Colorado turned their state Capitols into a sea of red Thursday as they kicked off widespread walkouts that shut down public schools in a bid for better pay and education funding, building on educator revolt that emerged elsewhere in the USA but whose political prospects were not clear.

Most of the money is distributed to school districts in the form of the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program, which doles out awards for school construction.

But it's not clear how it will affect the walkout, which has no end date and began because teachers found the plan insufficient.

"I have watched the Arizona legislature shift more and more of the burden of educating its young people on to the shoulders of the local community", says Larry Garrison, an Arizona educator of 25 years who works at Blue Ridge. "If the walkout goes on for as long as some people say it will, I don't go", Gray said.

"We've all been listening - but now, it's time to act", Ducey added.

"He basically ticked off the first demand and ignored everything else we asked for", she said.

Educators' demands include immediate 20% teacher pay raises, competitive pay for support staff such as bus drivers and paraprofessionals, and restoring the $1 billion in state money for education that has been cut since the recession. Those difficulties are also familiar to teachers in Alabama.

The uprising comes after teachers spent the last decade defending themselves from blame for America's ailing school systems.

It's not a coincidence that the teacher walkouts have happened in states where unions are weak. "Believe me there are still some senators here who could use an education".

The state's almost 200 public school districts can try to keep schools open or close them.

Meanwhile in Colorado, teachers also were demanding more funding.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey met with 10 educators in wake of the march.

In the middle is an unlikely player: the few charter school teachers who have joined the protest.

"It's a step in the right direction", said Hazel Chandler, a retired teacher and Arizona State House candidate.

"Our schools are underfunded, understaffed, unprotected, and now our legislators are messing with PERA (the Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association)", said Leslie Miller, a Monroe Elementary School teacher in District 11.

"Our country's greatest commodity is our youth", said Judy Peterson, another Blue Ridge teacher who is in her 47th year of teaching at the same school. "There is a slim chance that the bill language could be inserted into another bill now on the floor, but we're betting on a success in 2019", said Morgan Lommele, e-bike campaigns manager for the BPSA and PFB.

Jason Bedrick, policy director for the school choice advocacy group EdChoice, said teachers groups are pitting educators against families for political gain.

"So they know it's been delivered on, " he said.

Despite the intense debate, about 85 percent of USA students go to traditional public schools. She contends that state politicians need to prioritize education.

"This is not something that erupted overnight", Cather said.



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